Contractor’s blunder causes outage to University of Alaska statewide network

The University of Alaska’s information technology infrastructure and many of its network systems suffered a prolonged, widespread outage Wednesday on at least two campuses — Fairbanks and Anchorage.

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Depending on the location, phones, Internet, external websites and internal sites like the ones staff use for human resources or that students and professors use for classes were down from 9:30 to noon or longer.

It all started with contractors on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus working in the Butrovich Building on the backup battery system.

“Something happened to cause a short in the electrical system,” UAF spokeswoman Marmian Grimes said. “That, in turn, brought down the network.”

The fix required special technicians and a specialized high-voltage replacement part was apparently not already on hand.

“Facilities Services crews were able to find a fuse in town and get that fuse replaced,” Grimes said.

Grimes said police and fire dispatchers at the university had no Internet but were still able to take calls and use radios.

But other public safety services tied to the system, including but not limited to the Alaska Earthquake Center, were also affected. The center tweeted that some automated earthquake information was unavailable, for example.

Grimes said there did not appear to be a far reaching threat to public safety.

The University of Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Public Media had some difficulties related to the outage.

There were persisting problems this evening for dozens of Alaska community stations and translators that are part of Alaska Public Media and the Alaska Public Radio Network.

Steve Hamlin, the technical manager for Alaska Public Broadcasting, said a little before 5 p.m., various systems that distribute programming were starting to come back online.

“It’s sort of like having to reboot and restart stuff and get all the traffic signs going the right way,” Hamlin said.

UAF also said late afternoon that its systems downstream from the outage continued to come back online as well.